Healdsburg has a problem that many towns would envy -- a growing number of special events and festivities that is causing a reassessment of whether to limit the number that can be held, or impose restrictions to handle traffic and parking overflow.

"We see really an explosion of special events in the downtown area," Assistant City Manager David Mickaelian told the City Council Monday night. "How many are too many?"

Councilman Tom Chambers, who suggested the city scrutinize its permitting and handling of special events, especially when they are held simultaneously, said that for the most part the city seems to handle them well.

"Why we're having this discussion is Healdsburg has been so successful," he said.

"It's a sign of a really healthy economy in Healdsburg. It's a good thing," added Councilman Shaun McCaffery.

Nevertheless, city officials suggested it was time to re-evaluate their policies after a particularly busy Saturday in late October when four special events downtown were held on the same day.

They included the farmers market, a half-marathon, a haunted house and a dog parade.

Assistant City Manager David Mickaelian said the events, all within a 500-yard radius of each other, created significant impacts to parking, traffic circulation and staff resources.

On Monday, the council agreed to set up a special event subcommittee to study the issue along with the Park and Recreation Commission.

In addition to reviewing the number and type of events, the city also will look at the impact serving alcohol has on city resources, because of an increase in the number of special events that request alcohol permits.

Healdsburg has seen the requests for special events in the downtown boom over the past six years.

In 2006, there were 17 special event applications, including 8 major events. This year, the city anticipates 53 applications, including for 20 major events.

But in actuality, the number is higher, somewhere between 124 to 167 events, according to Mickaelian. That's because some of the permits cover multiple day events, such as the farmers market, Tuesday concerts, and Haunted House.

In a related move, the city recently clamped down to ensure only eligible organizations get to use the highly popular and sought-after city Plaza.

The upcoming May 26 Antiques Fair, which has been held twice yearly in the Plaza for more than two decades, was relocated to a parking lot a block away. City officials said it was essentially a commercial affair and did not qualify under the guideline that limits special events in the Plaza to ones sponsored by a Healdsburg based nonprofit organization.

The city on the same grounds denied an application by a sports promoter to hold a yoga class and reception in the Plaza affiliated with the upcoming "Grapes of Rock Half Marathon."

Besides looking at the criteria for what constitutes "major" versus "minor" special events, council members also talked about expanding the hours for no parking at the farmers market so vendors don't have to deal with illegally parked cars where they set up their booths.

Another idea to increase available parking on weekends is to have event organizers pay to use private parking lots.

You can reach Staff Writer Clark Mason at 521-5214 or clark.mason@pressdemocrat.com

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